The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Auto Workers Take on the Bosses—Take on the System That Lurks behind Them

Oct 16, 2023

On October 9, about 4,000 workers at Mack Truck plants in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida went on strike after they voted down a tentative agreement negotiated by the United Auto Workers union (UAW) leadership.

The Mack Truck workers may have been encouraged by the auto strike. Three weeks before, UAW leaders had called a partial strike at what used to be called the “Big 3”—GM, Ford and Stellantis.

It is not just Mack and the three auto companies. Today other workers are striking or preparing to go on strike—still not much, but noticeably more than what happened for almost four years. Hospital workers at Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross workers in Michigan, auto supplier workers in Alabama, chemical workers in Illinois, nursing home workers in Michigan and hotel workers in Los Angeles have struck. Meanwhile, casino workers in Detroit, General Dynamics workers and resort workers in Las Vegas have taken strike votes. It seems a little like what happened after the GM strike in 2019—when a rash of strikes caused some people to call it “Striketober.” But Covid soon shut down everything, including strikes.

Now there seems to be a resurgence. It’s not really a surprise. Working people are fed up, many of us very angry. We have faced worsening problems for too long, unsafe working conditions; wages falling well behind inflation; working jobs that are only part-time or temporary, or forced to work two jobs.

Workers’ resentment may have pushed onto the scene through these latest strikes. The question is, will workers take it past the limits in which the unions have led the strikes so far? This situation, which seems to open the door to workers who want to spread their strike, calls for it.

Up until now, the leaders of the unions are not proposing to make these fights as wide as they could be. Kaiser Permanente workers were called out for only three days, with the end of the strike set in advance. The new leadership of the UAW, which promised a more militant fight than the one the UAW carried out against GM in 2019, has so far called out only a few plants to strike, while most Big 3 workers continue to work. As of October 14, only about 24% of UAW autoworkers are on strike. Those who called the strikes are holding back the fight, keeping it safely within the boundaries the system allows.

UAW President Shawn Fain may talk about the working class. He denounces outrageous company profits. And he certainly projects a more militant appearance.

But he doesn’t discuss the system that creates this situation, in which high profits and lower wages are normal. This is called exploitation. And it is produced by the capitalist system—the same system the Democrats defend, even when they join a UAW picket line. (The Republicans do the same, but the union leadership doesn’t push them on the workers).

These strikes may well win something more than what workers have right now. For years, there have been no strikes, and with no fight, workers have no chance at all.

But even if workers gain a few things—so what? People may have forgotten, but GM workers in 2019 thought they won some things—in fact, they did. But it didn’t change the basic situation they and their families found themselves in. To do that, workers will have to begin thinking about the system that creates all these problems. It’s called capitalism. And the only perspective that gives workers real prospects is one that aims at getting rid of capitalism.